Rabat- After Brazil 2014, the much-awaited World Cup kicked off today in Moscow. Following an amazing opening ceremony, the host nation took on Saudi Arabia in Group A’s opening game.
While a Russia vs. Saudi Arabia is not the typical fixture to garner the excitement and thrill of the footballing word, the fact that it is a World Cup game makes it interesting enough. And the Russian squad, starting their home adventure with a spectacular display of attacking skills, did justice to the fabulous event that the World Cup is.
“We could not have hoped for better start,” fans enthused on social media as they shared pictures of the footballing agony that the Russian squad inflicted on the Saudi team.
5-0 as an introductory game to a tournament that has been mired in geopolitical turmoil, nothing can be a starker reminder that once on the pitch, once the momentum has been greenlighted by the referee, there are a few things to take away the joie de vivre that comes with watching or living a World Cup.
Saudis entered the game with confidence, armed with their impressive performance in their final pre-World Cup friendly with Germany. But their hopes were soon dashed by an early goal at the 12 minute, with Yuri Gazinsky transforming Russia’s first shot on target into a phenomenally clinical header.
Looking for inspiration to keep their World Cup adventure safe from early humiliation, Saudi Arabia made a compact defensive bloc during the first half and sought an equalizer.
But try as they might, the Russian rage, sustained by the never-fading winning spirit of playing on home soil with the rapturous support of thunderous fans, got the best of the Saudis at the 43rd minute. Having singled-handedly crossed the opposing defense, Cheryshev lodged home an incredible shoot, giving a 2-0 lead to the host.
The second half, despite the nonchalance of assured victory, did feature some of Russia’s strongest moves. And the third goal was an illustration of that: Russia is most lethal when it is allowed time to send in crosses from its constantly inspired men on the flanks.
With Dzuba’s goal at the 71st minute, the third for Russia, it was game over for Saudi Arabia, their only mission now to contain the humiliation.
Pushed on by a lively and excited public, however, Russia looked to garner more momentum, escalating the agony of an already reeling opposing side. And then came the showpiece of the evening, the glorious outside-of-foot strike from Cheryshev at the beginning of added time. Scoring two goals in the opening, Cheryshev’s masterpiece put in the sure-to-be fun scramble for Golden boot.
Golovin’s final goal for Russia was easily obtained, as Saudi’s morale was dead by then, crucified by ferocious attacking attempts.
As a score line in the first match of the most prestigious football tournament, 5-0 is, if anything, a delicious prelude to a month-long contest that promises an avalanche of dramatic occurrences.
Many legends—Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, to name only the most outstanding—are probably playing their last World Cup. But Russia’s perfect star was not all too perfect—they lost Alan Dzagoev with a hamstring, depriving the team of one its most monumental assets.
The momentum comes back tomorrow, with Egypt and Morocco opening the feast for the African continent. Egypt plays Uruguay at 12 noon (Moroccan time), whereas Morocco opens with Iran at 3 p.m. in the least intensive encounter of what has been dubbed the “group of death.” Spain will then take on Portugal at 6 p.m., topping off the day with a much-awaited European clash.